Childhood Smacking Ban - 05/07/2004

[David Cottingham]

"The House of Lords has rejected an outright ban on smacking children, and backed a compromise allowing parents to resort to "mild smacking"."

- BBC News Online



David Cottingham
Engineering Relationship Manager at Citrix Systems R&D, organised, tall, pedant.
Personal site

E-mail format:

Back to the Home Page

I find the debate on childhood smacking to be interesting and yet pointless. It is a prime example of how today's society (or perhaps just our politicians) confuse separate issues and attempt to introduce sweeping "solutions" which then wreak havoc in the long-term.

The vast majority of parents (and even those who are not!), will agree that attempting to discipline a young child is, for the most part, impossible by reasoning. At the tender age of two years, children are not capable of engaging in reasoned debate about the finer points of right and wrong. They are explorers, curious as to what the consequences of their actions are, but without the capability to listen to others to find out: instead they seek to experience those consequences first hand. The example all of us go through is being told that we should not touch a flame: I would wager all of us did touch it, or at least try very hard to, despite our parents saying "no".

Learning the difference between right and wrong is brought about by discipline. Sometimes simply shouting at a child is enough to instil in them the idea that something should not be done. However, there are times when something more is necessary. Smacking is one such tool to enable discipline: where a child receives a punishment that does indeed cause a small amount of temporary pain, but that enables them to form an association between something being most definitely "wrong", and a punishment.

Sadly, in our society there are those who physically abuse their children. I doubt anyone would condone actions where a child is subject to such abuse. However, it is a fallacy to label smacking as abuse: in a stable family parents love their children very much. Whilst they wish to ensure that their offspring grow up as decent members of society, they would never cause lasting hurt to their children. To my knowledge abuse does not take place in loving families.

By banning smacking completely, we remove an essential way for children to learn the difference between right and wrong. It is of significant note that over the years we have eroded any effective mechanisms of punishment in schools, resulting in children who are now more violent and misbehaved than ever before. Violence and discipline are two completely separate concepts, where the latter can prevent the former. How many criminals grew up in broken families where there was no discipline? Contrast this with how many child abuse cases there are in loving families who use smacking.
(N.B. I do not, unfortunately, have any figures for this. Instead, I appeal to the reader's common sense).

Evidently there are families where children are not smacked, and yet where they learn discipline. It would be foolish to attempt to show otherwise! However, this does not mean that the same is possible for all other families: people are very different, and for many, the most effective method of discipline is smacking. Of paramount importance is the fact that good parents all share a deep love for their children, which provokes an overriding desire to ensure that they are safe, well, and happy. Discipline goes some way to ensuring this. Abuse does not. But to eliminate effective discipline will result in exactly what the "child-lobby" purports to be attempting to discourage: children with no respect for others become adults who abuse their own offspring. Children do indeed have rights: one of them is the right to a proper upbringing, teaching in how to behave, in what is right and wrong, and in respect for others, all of which will then satisfy their right to a decent life as they grow up. By campaigning for the right of children to not be sensibly disciplined, politicians are denying future adults of the right to live in a society with minimal violence and maximal respect.



Copyright © 2004--2009 David Cottingham, Giles Agnew, & Mark Poynton. All Rights Reserved. Terms of Use
Help us to get first spot on Google by linking to us as pedant!